I like how everybody is chasing around behind the scenes Star Wars stories as the Harrison Ford Leggate metastasizes into something weirder and more complex. The latest comes from Latino Review, who says that Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams tried to push Episode VII until May of 2016 but Disney's Bob Iger put his foot down and refused to change the date, no matter what the situation is with Harrison Ford's leg. To those of us who are outside of the bubble it all seems crazy and makes no sense, but that's because we're looking at it from the point of view of movies.
This isn't about movies.
Disney is not really in the movie business. Parks and merch, that's Disney's business. Disney makes movies to create demand for their parks and merch. Someone once put it to me this way: Disney didn't buy Marvel because they wanted to make Avengers movies but because they want to sell Avengers diapers. That's a vital thing to understand - the movies make some money, but they're really just ads for the global branding initiatives that bring in the real cash.
And so it goes for Star Wars. But Star Wars holds a very different position - Star Wars merch remains the holiest of grails in retail-land, and Disney was able to leverage lots of other licensing agreements using their Star Wars IP. That means they were able to secure prime shelf space in Target or Wal-Mart for every shitty Planes spin-off toy for the next few years by promising lots of good Star Wars stuff. And that good Star Wars stuff has to be on the shelves for Christmas of 2015. That's the big time to move this merch, and the retailers do not want to have their shelves devoid of Star Wars merch come December. Delaying the movie - and thus the merch - has potential ramifications with the retailers who are moving the Disney items that actually earn the big, big bucks.
Episode VII is already right on the cusp of making sense as a 2015 merchandising juggernaut since it's coming so late; you're going to have the whole movie spoiled by toys over the Thanksgiving weekend, when a lot of shopping happens. Retailers would actually rather have that shit on their shelves earlier in the year, but they'll take it when they can get it. But they don't want to have to wait five or six more months. Their 2015s are built on this infusion of late year cash.
By the way, Frozen is a big part of this. Disney got caught with their pants down on Frozen merch and probably lost big money in the process. They will not allow this to happen again, and the licensors who produce this stuff for Disney and the retailers who were swamped with little girls looking for Elsa dolls don't want to get boned like they did when Frozen was huge and they didn't have deals in place. This movie is being led, 100%, by the merchandise. Which isn't unusual for this kind of movie (or this franchise), but it's becoming more of an issue thanks to the delays.
There's more to it as well. Bob Iger promised this movie to Disney's shareholders in 2015, and he's going to deliver. He's leaving in 2016 and this is how he wants to go out, with Episode VII breaking records and selling selling selling goods. He's sticking to his guns.
What does this mean for the movie itself? They have all the money at God's disposal, and they're going to have to spend it to make all of this work.